Monthly Archives: December 2021

🎄 Merry Christmas Eve! 🎄

I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas ever!

Want to know what fun events are happening today? Here are some suggesions on how to spend today. I am emphasizing outdoor itineraries today, for Covid safety.

Some highlights today

  • 1 pm: Water skiing Santa and his friends, Alexandria waterfront
  • 8 pm: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – ABC
  • 8 pm: A Holly Dolly Christmas (with Dolly Parton) – CBS
  • 8 pm: It’s A Wonderful Life (movie with Jimmy Stewart) – NBC
  • 8:30 pm: Shrek the Halls – ABC
  • 9 pm: Disney Prep & Landing – ABC
  • 9:30 pm: Disney Prep & Landing 2: Naughty vs. Nice – ABC
  • 11:30 pm: Christmas Eve Mass (with the Pope) – NBC

Safety Today for You and the Community

A big surge in holiday travel is expected today. In addition to the Covid surge, people tend to drink and drive during the holidays, so it’s a good idea to take precautions. Consider

  • Remembering that the greatest thing we can do for health care workers right now is not to beome another patient in an already over-stressed system.
  • Spending at least a few minutes in prayer or quiet reflection.
  • Call or Zoom with family and friends.
  • Remaining safer at home. Watch movies, listen to music, play games, cook special meals, bake cookies, make mulled cider, take walks, read and work on the December self-care challenge.
  • Instead of going to church, watching a live service online.
  • Take a virtual tour of the White House decorations.
  • Driving on secondary roads instead of major highways. It takes longer but there are fewer and less severe accidents.
  • Staying off the roads completely after dark.
  • Wearing a mask anytime you are indoors and not in your home.
  • Staying home if you feel sick at all.
  • Be a little more patient, if you are spending time with family. Take time for yourself and breathe and stretch. Manage your expectations and focus on the positive.

Visit the National Christmas Tree

Photographer: Nathan King, National Park Service

Have you seen the National Christmas Tree up close and in person yet? If no, there’s still time.

This year, the tree is a white fir tree with warm white lights and sparkling red and white ball decorations. The tree is crowned with a Christmas star.

The lights on the nation’s 99th National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC turn on around sunset each evening and turn off promptly at 10:00 pm Sunday-Thursday and 11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. The Pathway of Peace on the Ellipse (in back of the White House) is open through January 1. Hours are 10:00 am-10:00 pm Sunday-Thursday, and 10:00 am-11:00 pm Friday and Saturday.

In addition to the National Tree, there are 58 state and territory trees to see.

Transporation and Comfort

The Farragut West Metro station is the closet metro stop. If you drive, please note the parking spaces — I got a parking ticket on Christmas Eve once! There is a Potbelly sandwich shop nearby (1701 Pennsylvania Avenue) if you are hungry or thirsty. It is the most convenient and economical food place in the area and the food is pretty good. It is open 8 a.m. – 7 pm. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and of course, it has a restroom. Another quick place to use the restroom is the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery (which is almost directly across from the White House) when it is open. There is typically a National Park Service concession stand but it’s not very good, it’s expensive and the lines are long. Another option is to bring a water bottle or cocoa thermos with you.

 

How to make your poinsettia last after Christmas

 

Would you like to keep your poinsettia plant alive and well after the holidays? Watch this video to learn poinsettia preservation tips.

🎄Cool Yule Watch Party: Last Holiday🎄

The movie today is a comedy featuring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J and the initimable Gerard Depardieu. It’s a warm, funny movie that explores what we would do if we knew our time on this earth was limited. You can rent this movie on YouTube. I hope it inspires you to live fully and joyfully in the New Year! Enjoy!

 

The Tradition of Yule and Solstice Celebrations

Long before Christmas was a celebration, there were celebrations associated with Yule, December 21st, the longest day of the year. Those traditions continue today. Here are some ideas for making today special.

  • Dedicate yourself to your self-care and healthy activities. Today would be a great day for yoga, workouts and meditation. Check off at least one activity on the self-care planner!
  • Take Vitamin D which most of us need in the winter months.
  • Here is a Yule Log to color, courtesy of Wired Magazine!
  • Make a gratitude list for the abundance in your life your health, home and family.
  • Consider making a contribution of some kind as an offering of thanks. You could put some money in the Salvation Army Kettle Very appropriate for moving into the new year – ridding yourself of things you no longer need by making a donation to Good Will. So needed right now – blood donations or donations of canned food.
  • On the longest night of the year, the sun is a focus. Take a walk in the sun today. After today, there were will be more sunlight each day. Revel in the blessing of the sunglight!
  • Air out the house, give it a good cleaning and let fresh air and good luck come into the home.
  • Bring some fresh greenery into the house — pine and cedar swags, holly bunches and mistletoe. Hang a wreath of fresh greenery on your front door to welcome in prosperity and luck.
  • Light some candles on the darkest night of the year. Visualize positive energy set alight in yourself, your home and the new year.
  • Make a warm cup of Christmas tea or mulled cider — with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and orange rind.
  • Snuggle up by a real or video fireplace for the “yule log” experience.
  • Have a special dinner or lunch with Yule log (Buche de Noel) for dessert. You can puchase Yule log cakes (sometimes available by the slice) at Whole Foods and La Madeleine, or dress up a store-bought Red Velvet or Pumpkin roll as a Yule log with frosting or powdered sugar “snow.”

 

Plan for a Day and Night of Christmas Eve Fun

Ho ho ho! Christmas Eve is right around the corner! How will you keep merry this festive day? Well, here are some options to consider.

A Morning and Early Afternoon in Our Nation’s Capital

  1. Venture into DC. Take Metro to the Federal Center SW stop in the morning and visit the outdoor train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden (next to the Capitol) in DC (open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but it is closed on Christmas Day).
  2. Walk over to the adjacent Capitol and check out the Capitol Christmas Tree.
  3. Walk down the mall in the Walk down the mall in the direction of the Washington Monument. If you need a break, lunch, coffee or gelato, enter the National Gallery of Art to the Cascades Cafe downstairs. 
  4. The National Gallery of Art Rotonda upstairs is typically decorated for the holidays and is a worthy photo stop, if it is.
  5. Resume your walk, pausing to take in the outdoor skating rink at the National Gallery of Art will be open.
  6. Across from the Washington Monument on your right will be the Ellipse. You’ll see the National Christmas Tree, surrounded by 50+ state trees.
  7. A few steps away, you’ll also see the exterior Christmas decorations of The White House.
  8. Hop back on the metro before rush hour starts. Farragust West is the closest stop.
  9. If you want to do this in reverse and start with the Tree, never a bad idea on Christmas Eve, the grounds open at 10 a.m.

A Morning and Early Afternoon in Old Town Alexandria 

  • Walk along King Street, window shopping.
  • Take a cocoa break. There is a Dunkin Donuts close to the King Street Metro (donuts and bagels) and a Starbucks (gingerbread) closer to the Waterfront.
  • There are bathrooms at the Alexandria Visitor Center and the Torpedo Factory, if you need them.
  • Santa and his friends will be waterskiing at the Alexandria Waterfront at 1 p.m.
  • Time for lunch! After exploring the waterfront, lunch options include The Charthouse (on the Waterfront), Lena’s (wood-fired pizza on KIng Street) and La Madeleine (French food franchise), also on KIng Street.

Late afternoon and evening at Reston Town Center 

  • Starting at Fountain Square, take in the sights of the splendid Christmas tree, lights and decorations outdoors.
  • Pop into the Hyatt Regency Reston hotel lobby to check out the Christmas decorations.
  • Watch the skaters at the outdoor ice skating rink at Reston Town Center  open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Even if you don’t skate, it’s fun to watch.
  • Last-minute shopping for stocking stuffers and gifts includes Francesca’s, Paper Source, Scrawl Books and Sephora. The Fed Ex store has a nice variety of 2022 planners.Walk along Market Street to Reston Town Square and window shop.
  • For a late lunch or afternoon snack, there’s a Starbuck’s coffee, Peet’s coffee, Chipotle and Potbelly for quick snacks or a lunch or splurge at Clyde’s or one of the many other upscale casual restaurants.

Holiday Light Displays

  • Meadowlark Garden’s Winter Walk of Lights in Vienna is open 5 pm – 10 pm.
  • The drive through Bull Run Festival of Lights in Manassas is open 5:30 pm – 10 pm.
  • Ice and Lights at Cameron Run in Alexandria is open 5 pm – 10 pm.
  • Tinsel! at the Holiday Inn Dulles in Sterling is open for visits in 2-hour increments starting at 5 pm, 5:30 pm, 6 pm and 6:30 pm.

…and out of town

  • Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Wiilliamsburg is open from 2 pm – 10 pm; also on Christmas Day. Colonial Williamsburg is also open. The train to Williamsburg takes you there if you want to avoid traffic.
  • The train will also take you to my hometown of Richmond, VA with its decorated houses, Carytown, the Byrd Theater, the Jeffferson Hotel and casual dining spots. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (admission is pay what you can).

Have seafood for dinner

Celebrate the Italian American customs of a Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes. Or make cioppino with seven kinds of seafood. I would use cod (not halibut or salmon) in this recipe and add calamari and bay scallops to make seven seafoods.

Have deep pockets this holiday? Visit Clyde’s Chevy Chase or Clyde’s Mark Center (Alexandria) for cocktails and oysters on the half shell, oysters rockefeller, crab and artichoke dip, whitefish pate, steamed musssels and calamari, fried oysters, baked rockfish and more. Just skip the bland jumbo shrimp cocktail.

or

order Chinese takeout! That’s what I’m going to do! My favorites: Chopsticks in Herndon for Mu Shu and Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners (Falls Church) for Kung Pao chicken and sesame balls.

Make some home-made egg nog

Christmas Eve is also National Egg Nog Day. White the pre-made stuff is very good, here is a recipe in case you want to make your own.

Read a Christmas classic

Curl up tonight in front of ye olde TV set

Television programming on Christmas Eve includes…

  • 8 pm: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – ABC
  • 8 pm: A Holly Dolly Christmas (with Dolly Parton) CBS
  • 8 pm: It’s A Wonderful Life (movie with Jimmy Stewart) – NBC
  • 8:30 pm: Shrek the Halls – ABC
  • 9 pm: Disney Prep & Landing – ABC
  • 9:30 pm: Disney Prep & Landing 2: Naughty vs. Nice – ABC
  • 11:30 pm: Christmas Eve Mass (with the Pope) – NBC

Learn how to decorate with fresh greenery

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Happy Holly Day!

It’s wonderful to add the natural touches of holly, pinecones and greenery to your Christmas or Yuletide home decorations. Even before the birth of Christ, greenery was an important and symbolic part of winter festivities.

  • The Christmas colors of red and green come from the ancient use of holly in December celebrations. Evergreen holly is associated with everlasting life. Its red berries symbolize vitality and in Christian times became associated with the blood of Christ. The ancient Romans brought holly into their homes for the winter festival of Saturnalia. The prickly leaves were thought to protect the inhabitants of the house. Holly also figured in pagan rituals and celebrations.
  • Evergreen pine trees and pine cones have been associated with immortality or long life since pre-Christian times, as well as strength, as they stand up to winter storms. The ancient Romans associated them with the goddess of love, Venus and ancient Celts put them under their pillows as a fertiility charm.
  • MIstletoe is another evergreen plant that has been associated with Christmas. This is another plant that was used by the Romans during Saturnalia and it was also revered by the Norse peoples, who associated it with the goddess, Frigga. Ancient Celts believed mistletoe helped bring good luck, fertility and healthy crops.

Would you like to learn how to decorate with greenery? Peg from Merrifield Gardening Center shows you how to create gorgeous table decorations, swags and bows in this new video.

 

Non-Alcoholic Festive Drinks

Here are some of my favorite festive drinks — non-alcoholic so you can enjoy them anytime!

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

The Mary Christmas In  a glass with ice, pour in mandarin orange seltzer. Top with cranberry juice cocktail. Sprinkle a pinch of ground cloves on top. I also add a twist of orange peel (when I eat an orange, I freeze the peel and store it in a freezer bag). This drink smells and tastes just like Christmas 🙂

The Holly Jolly This is nice to drink if  you are at an office party with an open bar and you don’t want to drink alcohol. Ask the bartender to make you a spritzer of plain seltzer topped with cranberry juice (plain seltzer with cranberry juice) and add a wedge of lime. It looks festive, it’s refreshing, it’s low calore and most importantly, non-alcoholic! Tip: If you are making this at home, try freezing some whole cranberries and fresh rosemary sprigs in some ice cubes for an extra festive touch.

Mom’s Mocktail My mom likes this. Mix cranberry cocktail with gingerale. Yes, they make this flavor. B ut the blend you make yourself is more tasty! To make this even more festive, rim the glass with green sugar.

The Rudolph In a glass with ice, mix coca cola with a little cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar. Add a cherry. Bonus points if you rim the glass with cocoa or chocolate syrup.

The Clarice In a glass with ice, mix Sprite with a little cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar. Add a cherry. Bonus points if you rim the glass with pink sugar!

Three Wise Men In a glass of ice, add a couple of splashes of tart cherry juice and an equal amount of pear juice (you can use the pear syrup from an individual cup of pears or pear nectar). Fill the rest of the glass with plain seltzer or mineral water, mix and add an anise star.

The Tradition of the Christmas Cookie

Today is Bake Cookies Day! Do you bake Christmas cookies? On the right are some of my humble (but tasty) samples.

Did you know that the tradition of Christmas cookies began in medieval Europe? The Dutch brought the custom of baking Christmas cookies to the United States in the early 1600s (Wikipedia).

Cookie cutters were imported to the U.S. from Germany around the turn of the century (early 1900s, that is). In those days, people hung treats and candy from Christmas trees to be removed and eaten by children, so the cookie cutters fashioned cookies to be hung that way.

Children started leaving cookies and milk for Santa Claus in the United States in the 1930s.

What kind of cookies will you be baking this Christmas? Tip: after cooling, store sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, spritz cookies, bar cookies and nut balls in a cookie tin with a tight-fitting lid.

Here is a poem that captures the essence of the tradition of baking Christmas cookies

Christmas Cookies by C. F. Kelly

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The mixer in the kitchen purrs;
it twists and tosses as it stirs
the cookie batter Mom will bake
and then let me help decorate.

The silver cutters wait in lines
to shape their own unique designs
when rolling pin has done its job
and flattened out the doughy blob.

She wipes her brow, adjusts her sleeves,
and starts to cut out holly leaves,
then picks the joyful rocking horse
and stars and bells and birds, of course.

The trees and Santas wait their turn,
while angels, next to snow men, yearn
to don their robes and join the crowd—
I’m sure they want to sing out loud.

The powdered sugar frosting spreads
with ease and forms the sticky beds
on which the colored sprinkles rest,
where red-hot buttons look their best.

And I would like to make it clear
that these creations disappear
because in spite of looking neat,
they’re really baked for us to eat.

© by C.F. Kelly

Support Wreaths Across America

You can make your Christmas even more meaningful this year by contributing or volunteering with Wreaths Across America.

Sponsor a “National Wreaths Across America” wreath to be placed at the grave of a departed member of the U.S. military services for $15 a wreath. November 1 – December 18. Volunteers are also needed to lay wreaths at the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery and at the gravesites of veterans at 2,900 locations around the country on Saturday, Decemeber 18. Important to know: